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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 3, 1908

Mustafa Kamil1 Pasha

We published yesterday among our selections a full account of the life and death of Mustafa Kamil2 Pasha, the great Nationalist leader in Egypt, who has regenerated Nationalism in his motherland and will be remembered in history as the chief among the creators of modern Egypt. The early death of this extraordinary man will be a blow to the movement, but we must remember what we are apt to forget that the life-work of a great man often does not begin till he dies. While the body fetters the activities of the spirit within, his work is limited in its scope and imperfect in its intensity, but when the material shackles are struck off by the friendly hand of death, then the spirit ranges abroad in perfect freedom and the sudden and startling rapidity with which its work develops, forms a theme for the amazement and admiration of posterity. Whatever else Mustafa Kamil3 may have been, he was a sincere and enthusiastic patriot. When he left Egypt to help the cause of his country in foreign countries, he was welcomed even in England by those who had the generosity to appreciate patriotism; but the moment it appeared that his work was beginning to bear practical fruit in Egypt itself, a storm of misrepresentation began to beat about his devoted head which has not even yet ceased. He was denounced as an intriguer, a paid tool of the Khedive, a Turcophil emissary of the Sultan. But Egypt felt the heart of a patriot in his writings and his speeches and her people responded to his call. The steady growth of the Nationalist Party has been mainly the work of Mustafa Kamil4. It attained its consummation in the meaning5 of the recognised6 Nationalist Party when he was on the brink of the grave and his last self-forgetful service to his country was the speech which he rose from his death-bed to deliver upon that memorable occasion.

The programme of the Nationalist Party in Egypt has some resemblances to that of the Indian Nationalists. Its object is the independence of Egypt, its method is the appeal to the self-consciousness of the nation, and its reliance is on the help which God always gives to the cause of righteousness when it is pursued in a lofty and disinterested spirit. In his earlier career Mustafa relied too much on foreign sympathy and he persisted till the end in clinging to the hope of some assistance, moral if not material, from the foreign Powers financially interested in Egypt. But his trust in this chance of outward help never extended to the folly of expecting British statesmen to co-operate of deliberate purpose in hastening the day of Egypt's liberation. He was a statesman as well as a prophet of Nationalism. If he relied too much on foreign sympathy, it was because the national sentiment in Egypt was as yet local and he trusted in the moral support of other countries to prevent England from putting it down with the strong hand before it had become sufficiently self-conscious to survive oppression. The Sultan stood between Egypt and complete annexation to England, and therefore he always persisted in laying stress on the suzerainty of the Sultan. The religious solidarity of Islam was a moral asset in his favour and he insisted on this solidarity but never suffered it for a moment to interfere with the distinct existence of Egyptian Nationality. The cause of Nationality was his first object; the rest merely helps and supports. Towards the end of his career as the sentiment of Nationality grew more and more self-conscious and self-reliant in his countrymen, he too came to perceive in its fullness the truth that Egypt must rely on herself first and not on others. Foreign help can only be safe and beneficial if the nation has already grown strong enough to rely mainly on itself for its own separate existence.

Mustafa Kamil7 was a man of the type of Mazzini in one respect, his intense idealism and lofty idea of cosmopolitan unity embracing national independence. It is this idealism which will keep Egypt alive and secure the immortality of the Nationalist movement. When a movement for independence begins with diplomacy and Machiavellianism, it is doomed to failure as the Carbonari movement failed in Italy. God is not with it. It does not rely on the eternal principles of truth and virtue, but on the finite strength of human intellect and human means and to that finite strength God leaves it. When that strength comes to its limits, there is nothing left, and failure is final. But when a movement takes its stand on truth and justice, then it appeals to God Himself and He will see to it that the trust reposed in Him is not falsified. Failures may come but they will be only fresh incentives to purer and nobler effort. An immortal power will stand behind the movement and death will be afraid to come near it. Its leaders may be snatched away by the hand of death, hurried into exile or imprisonment, given to the hand of the executioner, but fresh leaders will arise. Its means may change from time to time, it may pass through ever-new phases and sometimes men may fail to recognise8 it as the same old movement, but God is within it always as its eternal and undying Self and it lasts till it receives its consummation.

 

Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Kamal

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2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Kamal

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3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Kamal

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4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Kamal

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5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: meeting

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6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: reorganized

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7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Kamal

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8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: recognize

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